Former big league shortstop Alcides Escobar has agreed to a deal with the Yakult Swallos of NPB, the team announced. (Japanese-language link to Sponichi story; h/t Kazuto Yamazaki of Baseball Prospectus, on Twitter.) The longtime Royal saw MLB action every season between 2008 and 2018.
Escobar is most famous for his run in Kansas City, where he logged eight consecutive seasons of 140+ games, including three years in which he entered all 162 contests. Always a below-average hitter, Escobar nevertheless carved out a few solid seasons thanks to his stellar baserunning and defense. In 2014, Escobar put together a .285/.317/.377 slash (93 wRC+) while playing shortstop every day, swiping 31 bags en route to a career-high 3.5 fWAR. That output was instrumental to a Royals’ club that won the AL pennant that year largely on the strength of defense, baserunning, and contact hitting. He wasn’t quite so productive in the Royals’ 2015 World Series-winning effort, although he at least offered durability and stability at shortstop for Ned Yost.
Unfortnately, Escobar’s already-tenuous offense cratered after 2015, and he hovered around replacement level the next three seasons. He departed Kansas City after 2018, signing with the White Sox on a minor-league deal. Escobar was generally solid at Triple-A in the Chicago organization in 2019, slashing .286/.343/.444, although the relationship seemingly ended acrimoniously in August. He didn’t suit up again this year after being released by the Sox.
Set to enter his age-33 season, Escobar still has plenty of time to make a return to the U.S. if he earns his way back. His recent track record hasn’t given much reason to believe he’ll do so, although perhaps his baserunning and glovework could inspire teams to take a look at him as a utility option. First, of course, he’ll have to put up some respectable numbers at the plate at the world’s second-highest level.